Skip to main content

Ask Bryan: Rating the importance of Kuechly, Newton


Who's more important - Cam Newton to the offense or Luke Kuechly to the defense? – William in High Point, N.C.

The only time that question had an easy answer was in Week 1, when Kuechly led the defense to victory while Newton watched from the sideline. Any other time, however, it's a question that really has no wrong answer.

The quarterback position is arguably the most important in all of professional sports. While there aren't enough elite-level quarterbacks for every NFL team to even have one, defenses feature three to four linebackers. From a supply-and-demand perspective, the quarterback position appears to win out.

However, linebackers like Luke Kuechly are in short supply. We are talking about the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a player whose literal impact is seen play after play when his understanding of where to be and his sure tackling meet at the football. Kuechly also impacts the defense in ways not as easily seen, like helping get his fellow defensive players in the right position to make plays.

On the other hand, Newton isn't the only star quarterback in the league, but he is one of a kind. His combination of passing ability (did you know that Newton had a higher completion percentage than Andrew Luck last season?) and running ability is arguably unmatched. And despite his recent rib injury, he brings a physicality to the position that some linebackers wish they possessed.

The bottom line is Newton and Kuechly are extremely important to what the Panthers do.

How would you grade the performance of the Panthers' offensive line and secondary this past weekend? – Seth via Twitter

How could anyone not be pleased with the production of those position groups Sunday in Tampa? While the offensive line allowed just one sack of quarterback Derek Anderson – and that sack really resulted from a busted play – the secondary came up with three takeaways.

My satisfaction with the showing, however, went beyond the numbers. An offensive line debuting Byron Bell at left tackle seamlessly rotated eight linemen, and a secondary that barely played a snap together in the preseason looked like they had been playing together for a long time. Both groups will be tested again Sunday, with Detroit's defensive line and wide receiver Calvin Johnson arguably the Lion's most potent pieces.

Best suggestion for dealing with Megatron this week? Blitz Stafford or drop coverage back? – Anthony Price via Twitter

The best-case scenario borrows from both of your thoughts. If the Panthers can get to quarterback Matthew Stafford without blitzing, then they'll be able to roll more coverage toward Johnson, who caught seven passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns in the Lions' victory Monday night against the New York Giants.

The last time the teams met, in 2011, the Panthers didn't throw the kitchen sink at Johnson, but he was still relatively quiet with five receptions for 89 yards. Problem was, Stafford threw touchdown passes to five different players, all set up by 140 yards rushing by Kevin Smith.

That, however, was a different defense. This defense showed in the opener that, much like last season, it can stop the run while also handling big receiving threats.

Ron Rivera mentioned that Josh Norman needs playing time. Do you see him taking over starting corner by end of season? – Ryan Wolf via Twitter

"Josh Norman deserves an opportunity to play," Rivera said Monday. "He needs to play."

Rivera highlighted Norman's efforts on special teams, and no one can question how hard he plays. Norman showed signs of better decision-making in the preseason and should get a chance to show the same in the regular season, but I wouldn't project him to start just yet. Regardless of how well he plays, starters Antoine Cason and Melvin White have proven their worth.

Related Content